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Why Your Kia and Hyundai Are Popular With Car Thieves

Is your 2011 or newer Kia protected against theft? How about your 2015 or newer Hyundai? Both are being heavily targeted by car thieves but there’s an easy solution.

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Police in Milwaukee, Wisconsin are seeing a stunning jump in the theft of 2011 or newer Kias and 2015 or newer Hyundais. There’s a high tech reason and a low-tech solution.

Television stations in Milwaukee are reporting the theft of Kia models and Hyundai models has led to a car theft increase of 160% since last year. The raw numbers are since Jan. 1 there have been 2,949 stolen cars since Jan. 1 in Milwaukee. Kias stolen represent 973 and 947 were Hyundai vehicles. This time last year, there were 1,201 thefts -- 34 Kia and 58 Hyundai.

Police won’t reveal what makes the models so appealing to thieves but some security experts feel it comes down to key fobs. The mentioned Kia and Hyundai models can be driven away without key fobs: a major technical flaw.

Kia Rio car thieves popular

All thieves have to do is get inside the car, work their car theft voodoo, and drive away. To avoid triggering the car alarms, they smash the windows and climb inside. Milwaukee PD says the cars are then used to create other crimes. These aren’t “harmless” joy rides.

There’s a decidedly low-tech solution to the problem for Kia and Hyundaid owners. Don’t rush out and buy an expensive car alarm system that detects broken glass and immobilizes your car. The latter is a good feature but who pays attention to car alarms? Once the thieves quickly gain entry the alarms can be silenced and your vehicle is gone.

The best thing to do is to get a steering wheel lock. Some folks know them by as “The Club.” These hard pieces of metal stop your car from being driven. Think of them as the interior equivalent of the Denver Boots that get slapped on cars with parking ticket violations.

The Club steering wheel lock

Put a steering wheel lock on your Hyundai or Kia and it’s not going to be easily stolen. Thieves won’t steel what they can’t steer.

By the way, Milwaukee police have asked Hyundai and Kia to recall the vehicles. It appears reprogramming the key fobs and other simple security solutions could solve the issue.

Any other tips to prevent car thefts? Comment below.

Keith Griffin covers Hyundai and Kia at Torque News. He has been writing continuously about cars since 2002. Keith used to be a researcher/writer for US News & World Report, as well as numerous car sites, including Carfax and Car Gurus, and a contributor to The Boston Globe. Most recently, Keith was the managing editor for American Business Media. Follow Keith at @indepthauto on Twitter, on @LinkedIn and on his Indepth Auto Facebook page.

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K. (not verified)    May 7, 2021 - 6:53AM

The suggestion of placing a steering wheel lock is a joke!
I won't mention it here but there is a way to defeat them in 15 - 20 SECONDS.
Instead use a brake lock and here are the reasons why.
1) Thieves like steering wheel locks. Easy to defeat and they can see all around them while working on getting them off In case people approach the car.
2) A brake lock hooks around the brake pedal which is attached to one off the hardest pieces of steel on a car. NO person stealing a car wants to be upside down in a seat due to obvious reasons trying to saw,grind or pry in a small space and most important with a door open with their head and arms reaching underneath but their body in a compromised position.
They cannot see as per point 1 above and they are in a crunch zone where someone can jam the door on them repeatedly should be the case before you hand them over to any authority. In today's world most likely the most punishment they would receive unless they steal a judges car (but what judge or family member drives a Kia)?
3) most steering wheel locks are not applied properly. A brake lock has only one application and even if you can start the car you won't be able to use the brake to stop it.
* I actually learned this on a tv episode 15 yrs ago, where a professional car thief got out of prison and created his own company working with police and insurance companies for a good fee on what thieves look for and how combat it.

** You get what you pay for. Steering wheel lock $10 - $25 ... Brake lock around $35 - $60

Larry (not verified)    May 1, 2023 - 1:33PM

In reply to by Jimmy Michael (not verified)

Most thieves are resourceful. After spending at least a couple of hundred on a QR steering wheel kit they will just use a pair of vice grips on the shaft or something as simple to turn the steering wheel. I am using a well hidden simple toggle switch, well hidden and painted to match the car. shuts off the power to the fuel pump or the ignition or? KISS principal... Has worked on my vehicles since 1980. Almost NOBODY pays attention to a car alarm anymore. I may have been so lucky that nobody has attempted to steal my vehicles but I doubt it...

jason h (not verified)    May 25, 2021 - 10:46PM

my kia was almost stolen twice. 2nd time it was with a club on the wheel and pedal. they smash the windows and can start up a kia with a screwdriver in 30 seconds total. first time i had my wheel turned and locked and they didnt know how to release it.

Randy meier (not verified)    June 2, 2021 - 8:41PM

Two of my kids cars have been stolen because of this. It’s criminally irresponsible of Hyundai and Kia that they have done NOTHING to prevent this from happening to others. I will never buy anything they produce again.

incahoots (not verified)    June 18, 2021 - 10:31AM

In reply to by Randy meier (not verified)

This is because you as the owner did not perform your due diligence. Kia/Hyundai have immobilizers in their cars, except unlike other car manufacturers it's an OPTIONAL feature, not a standard unless you buy higher trim levels.

If you go through your car's feature list I guaranteed you will find that your car does not have an immobilizer, this was common for BASE trim levels, higher trim levels came with immobilizers.

It's very important to research what you buy to prevent situations like this.

Anonymous (not verified)    July 1, 2021 - 12:04AM

In reply to by incahoots (not verified)

I have purchased two Hyundais (2018 and 2020). None of the sales people we spoke with mentioned anything about this optional feature, which leads me to believe they were unaware of the design flaw. This feature should not be optional. This is a safety matter, similar to the autopilot systems of the Boeing 737s which led to crashes killing 346 people. The US aircraft maker cut corners and pressured regulators to overlook aspects of the design flaw. Many pilots were unaware of the flaw. Criminals stealing Hyundai and Kia vehicles have guns, and people have been shot trying to stop the thefts. So don’t say people haven’t done their due diligence. We trust the car manufacturers are making safe and reliable vehicles for the American public. Apparently, Hyundai/Kia is taking short cuts (unlike other manufacturers) to make a buck at the cost of many innocent Americans and dealers.

Christine Kettle (not verified)    July 30, 2022 - 9:53PM

In reply to by incahoots (not verified)

I know this is an old topic but for real….. after spending $38k, I would expect for Hyundai /Kia not sell a car that could very easily be stolen!!!! That was by far the most useless info you could have added to a conversation!!!!!

Kasey (not verified)    August 18, 2022 - 8:52AM

In reply to by incahoots (not verified)

oh blame the victim huh. First of all sales agents NEVER even mention anything about immobilizers being optional because many do not know. I've called two Hyundai dealerships about this new tik tok trend and they were not aware of this or aware that their cars does not have immobilizers. ONLY Hyundai corp number knew this but she had to research it first herself SO to blame victim car buyers of not researching is wrong. This is a safety security issue that every car should have so we are not at fault. Hyundai will go down because of this because after 2 hyundai's that is the last time I'm buying one and many aren't either.

Rachel (not verified)    June 14, 2021 - 10:05PM

I keep seeing that it’s 2015 or newer for Hyundai’s, I just wanted to say that my 2013 Sonata was stolen last week. Smashed the rear passenger window and got the car started.

Barb Valley (not verified)    August 10, 2021 - 11:26PM

My landlord got his catalytic converters stolen out of his 2005 Forester 3 days ago. He lives near 32nd & Burnham. He's a very nice guy and I feel bad for him. What's to stop thieves from doing this AGAIN!!! WHO IS BUYING THESE CONVERTERS???

Ricky (not verified)    August 21, 2021 - 9:54AM

In reply to by Barb Valley (not verified)

Tons of places buy the converters some are worth $300 each. No Vin number on them so no.way to track them. We had a big problem down by the Amtrak station a few years ago. One guys truck had his converters stole 3 times. $1500 each time for him to replace his exhaust. We caught them though. Cordless Sawzall was what they used.

Elizabeth Campbell (not verified)    June 21, 2022 - 2:50PM

In reply to by Barb Valley (not verified)

Scrap yards by them. Metal recyclers by them. There are rare earth metals found in the catalytic converter’s that they sell on that secondary market for a lot of money. Honestly we need to start having more requirements for the people that are purchasing them. I live near a scrap metal recycler and every morning when they open and there is a line of people waiting to sell catalytic converter’s.

Tom neudeck (not verified)    August 31, 2021 - 9:43AM

Is there a solution ? Daughters Venue was stolen. Can you have a aftermarket immobilized installed that would work ?

LAWRENCE A REUBEN (not verified)    September 21, 2021 - 8:02PM

My story is similar to all the others. Hyundai/Kia did not step up to correct a design flaw that would protect their customers! They did not have my back nor take any responsibility for what is happening; because of their poor response, I will never purchase another Hyundai vehicle even after the problem is solved. I have sent my complaint to Hyundai and I suggest you do the same...for the record. Also, there is a Milwaukee law firm that is initiating a class action lawsuit against them and I urge you to research them online and ask to be included.

Anon (not verified)    October 29, 2021 - 11:12AM

You people are pathetic, immediately blaming the car companies for actions of criminals. You should be pointing the finger at the inept moron Mayor Tom Barrett, the criminally negligent Milwaukee District Attorney's office, and the buck-passing toothless Milwaukee Police Department for failing to hold criminals accountable for their actions against the community. It's only going to get worse, no matter how many security fixes car companies make. Get real.

Steven (not verified)    May 11, 2022 - 7:24PM

Reprogramming can stop the car from starting. It won't stop the would be thief from busting your window and breaking into the steering column.

Ben (not verified)    June 16, 2022 - 2:02AM

Here in Alief, Houston at Senior Housing Complex specifically at Canyon Hill Drive, 77083, a 2011 Kia Soul+ owned by a senior living in that apartment Complex its rear passenger window glass was smashed and the steering column was damaged. However the car stealers were not successful in having the car started. The car has an immobilizer and locked the brakes and steering wheel. It happened in Sunday, June 12, 2022 at 12:50 A.M. per surveillance camera tv replay.

Brown (not verified)    July 7, 2022 - 3:48AM

This isn’t just in Milwaukee anymore. Grand Rapids MI has multiple thefts daily. They are being used to commit other crimes but mostly they are used to create a real life GTA situation. They drive like absolute maniacs all over the city. Intentional head on collisions with police officers and running all the red lights they see. Multiple accidents with innocent drivers daily. The city has become a driving hell.

Karla A Kelley (not verified)    July 18, 2022 - 2:53PM

My car was broken into, rear window smashed, the ignition was destroyed and pulled out of the column, and the column was a total mess, so the key fob???
Does not make since except for the ass holes whom are spreading the ugly word it is easy to steal these models, rally??? Same nite, a Kia sedan was broken into, smashed rear window, and the ignition was wrecked, so why these models?

Jenny S (not verified)    July 29, 2022 - 10:36PM

Yes this just happened to my car as well. Still figuring things out but is this fixable? Do you just get a new ignition?